NASA Announces New Aircraft Paint Scheme
The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently announced that its X-59 quiet supersonic aircraft will be getting a new paint scheme to help protect it from moisture and corrosion.
According to NASA’s release, the new scheme will be applied at the paint barn at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ facility in Palmdale, California.
About the Paint Scheme
The aircraft’s new design will reportedly include a mainly white body, with a NASA “sonic blue” underside and red accents on the wings. Additionally, the X-59’s new design will include safety markings to help with ground and flight operations.
NASA states that its aircraft was moved to the paint barn on Nov. 14. Once it is painted, the team reportedly plans to take final measurements of its weight and exact shape to improve its computer modeling.
“We are incredibly excited to reach this step in the mission. When the X-59 emerges from the paint barn with fresh paint and livery, I expect the moment to take my breath away because I’ll see our vision coming to life,” said Cathy Bahm, the low boom flight demonstrator project manager.
“The year ahead will be a big one for the X-59, and it will be thrilling for the outside of the aircraft to finally match the spectacular mission ahead.”
NASA adds that the X-59 is an experimental aircraft built to fly faster than the speed of sound, subsequently reducing the sound of the typical sonic boom to a gentle thump. It is reportedly the centerpiece of NASA’s Quesst mission.
Through Quesst, NASA plans to fly the X-59 over several U.S. communities and gather data about people’s perceptions about the sound it makes. NASA states that it will then give that data to regulators to potentially adjust current rules that prohibit commercial supersonic flight over land.
At the beginning of October, NASA announced that it would be pushing the date for the first flight in its Quesst mission to 2024.
It stated that the reason behind the delay was that engineering teams involved with the mission needed more time "to fully integrate systems into the aircraft and ensure they work together as expected."
Additionally, NASA said the team was resolving intermittent issues with some of the “safety-redundant” computers on the plane.
Previous NASA News
In May, NASA announced that it had received a fresh coat of paint, including a new paint scheme and colors, in preparation for joining the fleet at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
According to the release, the F/A-18D aircraft, received from the U.S. Navy in 2021, was awaiting certification for flight. The aircraft, renamed NASA 862, was to reportedly track the supersonic X-59 aircraft, as well as aiding videographers and photographers in documenting flights.
Preparation for the aircraft’s acquisition began in 2020, when Director for Flight Operations at NASA Armstrong Troy Asher began work to replace the center’s two-seat F/A-18B models with newer aircraft. As a result, NASA Armstrong Flight Operation Engineer Jack Ly was appointed to evaluate several aircraft’s that could “meet the center’s mission."
Ly identified the new NASA 862 aircraft in May 2021 at its home base at the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. It was then recommended that it be selected following an inspection of the aircraft, its airframe and component records.
Though the F/A-18D is reportedly considered old by military standards, the parts are easier to find than previous models. The NASA 862 was then stripped of its military parts over a four-month period in preparation for its transfer to NASA Armstrong, the administration reported.
In October 2021, the aircraft was delivered to Armstrong before being sent to the Naval Air Station North Island Base, near San Diego. There, the aircraft reportedly underwent “intense depot-level maintenance.” Funding for the aircraft’s rejuvenation was provided by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and NASA Armstrong.
The overhaul reportedly involved removal of the wings, inspections for corrosion, modernizing aircraft systems and conducting other key inspections and services. Additionally, a second set of aircraft controls were reportedly installed in the rear cockpit for training purposes.
In March, NASA 862 was sent to the U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility on Edwards Air Force Base, also known as the Paint Barn, for its facelift. Crews sanded, masked and prepped for painting, then painted the aircraft with the NASA Armstrong paint scheme.
Additionally, the final safety decals were applied, as well as the NASA and Armstrong identifications. The aircraft returned to NASA Armstrong on May 15.
NASA expected maintenance on the aircraft to support a 40-year lifespan based on NASA Armstrong usage. The aircraft had also reportedly entered NASA’s Aircraft Management Information System, in addition to completing weight and balance checks.